There might not be a "Most Interesting Man in MLS Award" at the conclusion of each and every Major League Soccer season (there should be, by the way), but if there was, Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen would be a worthy finalist for the award, year after year. And Nielsen got just that much more interesting on Tuesday afternoon when The Guardian's Paolo Bandini announced that he has been working in partnership with the 35-yeard old Danish keeper to write his second autobiography, Welcome To The Blue Heaven.
— Paolo Bandini (@Paolo_Bandini) May 14, 2013
— Paolo Bandini (@Paolo_Bandini) May 14, 2013
Just ask anyone who's spent more than five minutes with Nielsen; they'll tell you the only thing more infectious and inspiring than his net-minding on the field, is his friendly and lovable personality off it. Needless to say, this is a book that you're going to want to get your hands on and breeze right through.
The official release form Ascend Books, publisher of Welcome To The Blue Heaven, states the book will range from topics, but not limited to, Nielsen's past gambling addiction that almost cost him his career, the trials and tribulations it caused amongst his family, the woman - his wife - that stuck by his side and helped him piece his life back together, and a whole new lease on life and career found in - of all places - the United States' Heartland, that has seen him become one of the club's all-time fan favorites and finally a Cup-winning captain.
Sporting Kansas City forward Kei Kamara was first to break the news of Nielsen's book, tweeting out a picture of his copy last week, followed up by this picture with the subject at hand, and the first ever signed copy of Welcome To The Blue Heaven:
— KEI KAMARA (@keikamara) May 11, 2013
There's only one thing that could be a more interesting time than Nielsen's autobiography itself, and that's the Jimmy Nielsen book tour, which kicks off later this month and into the summer at various Kansas City retailers.
You can order your copy of Welcome To The Blue Heaven on Amazon, for $24.95.
In case you haven't heard, Sporting Kansas City ended the Houston Dynamo's 36-game home unbeaten streak with a 1-0 victory at BBVA Compass Stadium on Sunday night. The 73rd-minute goal, which came courtesy of Sporting KC defender Aurélien Collin, ended the Dynamo's MLS record streak that spanned 22 months of play in all competitions.
Immediately after the game, a clever little bug in the Sporting KC communications department took to Twitter to gloat about ending the Dynamo's reign of terror in H-Town.
Sorry about your streak @houstondynamo. It was fun while it lasted.
— Sporting Kansas City (@SportingKC) May 13, 2013
The "streak" also pertains, coincidentally, to a another streak of five matchups, dating back to September 10, 2011, the last time Sporting defeated the Dynamo. That particular stretch included a 2012 regular-season loss, two draws and a pair of playoff eliminations in back-to-back years at Sporting Park. Sporting did manage to defeat the Dynamo, 1-0, in the second leg of the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals, but were knocked out 2-1 on aggregate.
Houston, however, had the last Twitter laugh of the night, just as they did in the 2011 and 2012 playoffs.
— HoustonDynamo (@HoustonDynamo) May 13, 2013
Sometimes, supporters groups' tifo displays are designed to look really cool, to recognize a player's career-long contributions to the club or even to intimidate that day's opponent with a massive pregame display that covers the entire end of a 70,000-seat stadium.
And other times, the displays transcend the sport of soccer altogether, making a statement about life in general.
On the same day a match in Italy – one that happened to involve United States national team midfielder Michael Bradley's club team, AS Roma – had to be momentarily halted because of racist chants aimed at opposing AC Milan players, the Timbers Army chose to spend their Sunday afternoon taking a stand against another sensitive social issue in the sports world: homophobia. The 5,000-person section used roughly 4,500 colored cards to create the display, according to Timbers Army 107 Independent Supporters Trust board member Abram Goldman-Armstrong in an e-mail exchange with MLSsoccer.com on Monday.
The display spanned six sections at JELD-WEN Field and featured a banner in the center reading simply "Pride, Not Prejudice." The Timbers went on to put three goals past the Chivas USA defense, picking up yet another impressive home victory to extend their unbeaten run to nine games.
— Eric Beard (@BeardEric) May 13, 2013
"The Timbers Army has had a 'zero-tolerance for intolerance' policy since its inception in 2001,'" Goldman-Armstrong told MLSsoccer.com. "Our display in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia demonstrates our commitment to making certain all people are welcome at the beautiful game, on the pitch and off of it.
"As the language San Jose's Alan Gordon used to attack captain Will Johnson shows, homophobia is still a real issue in North American sports. As supporters, we must do our best to show that there is no room for such bigotry in our sport. Sunday's display is an indication of that sentiment."
The Timbers Army will be the first of many independent supporters groups across MLS to lend their support to the "Pride, Not Prejudice" cause this week, as many groups have agreed to unveil their own unique stands against homophobia prior to their club's home game that falls closest to the 2013 International Day Against Homophobia on May 17.
The premiere of the latest American soccer documentary comes on Wednesday, May 15 (8 pm ET on ESPNU).
It's called Abby Head On and it's about — you guessed it — US women's national team star forward Abby Wambach and her rise from high school standout to international stardom.
The film is directed by Emmy award winners Erin Leyden and Gentry Kirby and it will be narrated by NFL Hall of Famer Jack Youngblood.
It will be the eighth documentary in the "Storied" series dedicated to the Southeastern Conference (SEC). Wambach bypassed other college soccer powerhouses to play for the University of Florida, and the Gators overcame none other than North Carolina in the 1998 title match.
“It’s like the first biggest thing I won," Wambach says in the documentary. "I’m a romantic when it comes to stuff so I think that getting to Florida and having the storybook ending—that was the only thing I was thinking about."
Want some free Chipotle? Sporting KC's Kei Kamara is back from Norwich and he's footing the burrito bill
"What?! You don't want free Chipotle?"
That's what I imagine Kei Kamara is saying in the above photo from Monday's press conference in Kansas City to welcome the fan favorite back into the Sporting fold.
There's a reason Kamara and his heart-shaped hands are beloved in Kansas City. He does things like offer all his Twitter followers free Chipotle.
Come one, come all. And leave your wallet at home. Kei's picking up the tab!
Dinner party at Chipotle on the plaza tonite 6:30pm. Leave you piggy bank at home and bring ya empty belly. #ChipotlePartyWithKei
— KEI KAMARA (@keikamara) May 6, 2013
FC Dallas & the Vancouver Whitecaps bombard the Houston Dynamo on Twitter -- and the Orange return fire
Last week, FC Dallas revealed a new product, the Orange Obliteration System (OOS). They hoped it would help them beat their orange-clad rivals from Houston.
Well, it worked. FCD got a dramatic 3-2 win over the Dynamo.
And now, other people want in on the action, namely, the Vancouver Whitecaps, who will face the Dynamo on Saturday at BBVA Compass Stadium, where the Dynamo have a 12-0-6 record since the stadium's opening last year.
Here's the tweet the 'Caps sent on Wednesday, requesting their own OOS.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) March 20, 2013
Dallas, never shy about tweaking their in-state rivals, obliged.
— FC Dallas (@FCDallas) March 20, 2013
And the Whitecaps were thankful.
— Vancouver Whitecaps (@WhitecapsFC) March 21, 2013
A little later, the Dynamo jumped into the fray, referencing Kenny Cooper's controversial match-winning goal against Houston last week.
— HoustonDynamo (@HoustonDynamo) March 20, 2013
Are you a US national team fan? Are you getting more and more amped as the hours tick down towards the next round of World Cup qualifiers on Friday night?
Jimmy Conrad the the rest of the crew over at KICKTV are right there with you. They've just dropped the latest episode of “The Hex,” KICKTV's video series on the final round of CONCACAF qualifying.
“Hexagonal 101” delivers a fast-paced refresher course on the long, global road to the World Cup, the structure of the competition and the many challenges that the USMNT and their five regional counterparts must overcome in order to book a place in Brazil 2014.
Sporting the USA's brand-new centennial jersey, which the Yanks will debut against Costa Rica at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., on Friday, Conrad reminds us how difficult the two-and-a-half-year-long process can be, a lesson he's learned through firsthand experience.
This is a great way to start the final countdown to the big games – and an excellent primer if you've got friends or family who could use a bit of Hex background.
Portland Timbers' Merritt Paulson, Sporting Kansas City's Robb Heineman named to SBJ's "40 Under 40" list
Two of the brightest, boldest executives in MLS have earned places on Sports Business Journal's annual “Forty Under 40” list of top young personalities in the sports business world.
Portland Timbers owner Merritt Paulson and Sporting Kansas City part-owner Robb Heineman (right) have received the honor, a repeat feat for both men.
In fact, it's the third straight year Paulson has made the list, elevating him to the “Forty Under 40 Hall of Fame,” while Heineman (at right, with MLS Commissioner Don Garber) can savor a second consecutive nomination.
As part of the honor, SBJ profiled both executives, hailing Heineman's role in his club's renaissance over the past two years and his forward-leaning approach to technology and fan relations.
“Through social media, we’re trying to give fans a sense of ownership,” Heineman said. “They’re not just fans, but they help shape some of the decisions that we make.”
Meanwhile, Paulson spoke to the publication about his outspoken public profile and use of Twitter to connect with the public – and occasionally even share his opinions of refereeing decisions and the like.
“I’m trying to be a little bit less of the face of the team this season,” Paulson (right) told SBJ. “I don’t mind being out there, but if the owner is too much a part of the story of the team, that’s ultimately a negative thing.”
LA Galaxy and Chivas USA fans may be interested to note that Ray Elias, chief marketing officer for StubHub, who will assume naming rights for the Home Depot Center later this year, is also on the list.
Kei Kamara breaks out a St. Patrick's Day jig for the second year in a row – this time with Norwich CIty
Kei Kamara scored against for Norwich City on Sunday. Well, almost.
Kamara would have scored against Sunderland, powering a soaring header into an open net, if it weren't for Wes Hoolahan's predatory instincts on the goal line. As it stands, it's a spectacular assist that gives the Sierre Leone international another special moment on loan from Sporting KC.
Will he be going back to Sporting Park? That remains to be seen, but it's clear Kamara hasn't forgotten what he perfected in front of the Kansas City faithful. That jig remind you of anything?
CORRECTION: D.C. United has not yet clinched Carolina Challenge Cup championship. I apologize for the confusion. #MLS
— Andrew Wiebe (@AndrewWiebe_MLS) March 3, 2012